How a village boy from Meru became a millionaire at 25


Eric Kinoti in his office during the interview. Photo/Lisa Kamau
Eric Kinoti in his office during the interview. Photo/Lisa Kamau

Eric Kinoti started from the bottom, quite literally.

The now high-flying entrepreneur narrated to Citizen Digital that he worked in Malindi as a hotel cashier by night, and by day he sold eggs to hotels in Mombasa before becoming a full time businessman.

“I noticed a gap in the market and took advantage of it,” he says.

The young entrepreneur sourced his eggs from Wangige and transported them to Mombasa, earning him a tidy sum of between Sh20,000 to Sh35,000 per week.

“I would go to hotels and tell them we have a very big farm and would like to supply them with eggs,” said Kinoti.

However, as luck would have it, Kinoti had to go back to Nairobi in 2008 after the post election violence that affected most parts of the country including the coastal region.

“I had no job and no prospects at the time so I decided to start a milk selling business. I quickly found out that it was unsustainable, as it required many licenses,” he narrated.

“I would wake up at 4am and go to Wangige, usually I would make Sh2,000 by midday.”

His milk business fell apart after he bought milk that had been diluted with water from farmers, instead of buying from the dairy centre where he sourced his milk and, on finding out the milk was impure, the customer refused to pay him.

“At that point my business went down the drain,” he said.

The incident discouraged the budding businessman and he decided to look for a job.

“I got a job as a sales rep for a local bank but I did not find it fulfilling so I quit after one month,” he said.

In keeping with his usual practice, Kinoti supplied schools with various goods even as he worked as a sales representative by day.

After he left the bank job he decided to venture into school supplies fulltime.

“In the process of supplying wares to schools, I met someone who needed a tent. I did some research and got him the tent and thus Shade Systems was born,” he said.

Since then the young entrepreneur has never looked back. His company has provided him with numerous opportunities to learn and travel and has won him various awards and recognitions that he says motivate him to achieve more than he did before.

“I have learnt how to set up manufacturing plants in any sector. I have learnt more than I would have learnt if I had not ventured into this,” he said.

“The awards I receive have motivated me to work harder and given me an opportunity to travel to places I would never have travelled to. The first time I was invited to speak on entrepreneurship was at the New York University after I was listed in the top 30 under 30 list by Forbes, that was a big moment in my life.”

Kinoti has expanded from having one company to having four and moved from being a job seeker to being an employer.

“I have employed 80 to 100 people. Sometimes they are more than 100 because we expand when we have many contracts and downsize when we have fewer,” he said.

His vision for the company he birthed is to take it beyond the borders.

“I want to go regional. I want to have Shade Systems East Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and so on. I also want to venture into solar energy,” he said.

The young CEO does not want to be lonely at the top, he has set out to mentor young men and women in business to ensure more and more people aim at being job creators instead of job seekers.

“I’ve been trying to create platforms to help people learn and not repeat our mistakes. I also use social media to encourage youths and other people to achieve their dreams,” he noted.

It is this goal that led to him creating the Entrepreneurs Boot Camp where groups of successful and aspiring entrepreneurs go to an out-of-town venue to discuss all matters investment and business.

Throughout the interview, Kinoti referenced having a positive attitude as key to success, an attribute he believes he has imparted into the minds of those he seeks to mentor.

“I have seen people’s mindsets change by them getting a positive outlook and pursuing their businesses,” he said.

“Some of them formed investment clubs with the people they met in the trucks on their way to Maasai Mara last year,” he said.

What advice does he have for budding entrepreneurs?

Don’t neglect education

“Education is important in business because you must communicate and for you to do so effectively you must have education,” he noted.

Focus on one thing

Kinoti is a firm believer in one being focused on one thing.

“Don’t be lured into every idea you think is lucrative, that is called the shiny penny syndrome where you think one venture will make you richer that the other. Instead work at what you have and learn from your challenges.”

Put God first

“God is everything so put your belief in God the Father, not godfathers.”

Don’t copy ideas

“What works in the US may not work in Kenya so create solutions for Kenya.

Some people just want to be told unafanya kitu kali (you’re doing something amazing),” he said.

Be yourself

“You’re the asset, you’re everything so know your purpose, your weakness, use it as an asset.”

Kinoti has a 3-year-old daughter called Alma Kinoti, he is not married and tells me he is currently searching. His plan is to be married in two years time.

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Story By Lisa Kamau
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